(By Steve Maltz) This subject has engaged my brain since 2008, when I started work on a manuscript that examined the influences that Greek thinking has had on the Church. This was published the following year as How the Church lost the Way and thus began a journey that has so far spanned seven further books and shows no sign of slowing down! It really is some journey, as God had pulled me into the confusing but liberating world of the Hebraic and my life has not been the same since.
I had entered a mine-field because what God was revealing to me was that being Hebraic was an internal condition of the mind, rather than the external trappings of Jewish culture. This has placed me at odds with mainstream Hebraic expressions, particularly those that have crossed the ocean from our American friends. I have become firmly convinced that the Hebraic element that surely must find its eventual expression in the One New Man of Ephesians 2:11-18, is a mindset rather than a set of practices, however Biblical they may be. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with keeping Sabbath, the feasts and the Torah, but it should always be with Romans 14 in mind, when considering the rest of God’s people.
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Romans 14:10-13)
Being Hebraic is to admit that one is on a journey and not at a destination. It’s a tricky journey as history, culture and religion acts against us, embedded as they are in the Greek mindset, a way of thinking borne out of the mind of man rather than the Heart of God. I am pleased to say that this is very much a shared journey, you are not (necessarily) reading the ramblings of a self-deluded lunatic. There is a growing band of other “lunatics” who are adding to this debate, focussed on the Foundations ministry that is slowly growing in its own quiet way.
Being Hebraic is to accept that although there are non-negotiable absolutes, centred around the entry requirements for God’s Kingdom, much that exercises our minds are not as clear cut as we may imagine them to be and our task is to be able to live and accept others who may disagree with our interpretation. Being Hebraic, in line with Jesus and other rabbis, is to ask questions, to open up our minds, rather than arguing over doctrine, which is an important exercise in defining tenets of our faith but, sometimes, can serve to close up minds, when our arguments are fuelled by hot air and intransigence. It has been said that there is no such thing as theology (or any other ‘ologies’) in Judaism as God and His ways are taken as a given, rather than something to be dissected and analysed, but, on the other hand, it continues to fail to accept the Jewish messiah! This is not to say that being Hebraic is to know all the answers, in fact it is more like the acknowledgement of the exact opposite. We don’t have all the answers, but that shouldn’t stop us from asking questions, with a view to finding some answers.
There are some very important questions that we are now starting to ask. One of them is the issue of Israel and the Jews. We are convinced that it is a far more central issue than the Church realises (or accepts), involving the sacredness of God’s covenants with His people. It is not a fringe issue, as many believe and the Church lies helplessly strangled by the promises and threats of Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;” Those who consider themselves on a “Hebraic path” should treat this as a serious matter and, despite the baggage and ignorance of the mainstream Church on these matters, should seek to be positive agents of change. It is a better witness to the Church (and arguably to unsaved Jews too) to find ways to communicate Hebraic understandings sensitively and relevantly, rather than from the refuge of the congregational ghettos we have constructed for ourselves. Yes, we know they don’t get us, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to open their minds.
Being Hebraic is to bring God back to the centre of His church. It is to accept Jesus in his culturally Jewish setting. It is to read the Bible as God’s gift of life to us, His primary means of communication to us and not a conduit of our own thoughts and ideas. It is to accept and seek to correct the past and present errors made by the Church in regards to the Jewish people. It is also to bring joy, life, hope and certainty back into the Church and to each member of it. It is to value each individual believer and accept that God has a unique plan for all of us and that the main stumbling block for most of us discovering this purpose are the Greek structures that infest the Church itself. Being Hebraic is to seek God, rather than find out what others tell us about God. It is about doing stuff rather than learning about stuff. It’s about being a good witness, walking the walk rather than talking the talk. It’s about being real, about living in man’s kingdom as a fully paid up member of God’s kingdom.
This is not a comfortable place to be because those old leaking wineskins are still embedded in our Christian landscape. This is not something new and trendy, it is the oldest thing of all. It is the mindset of those earliest Jewish believers as they met in houses and enjoyed unfettered freedoms, hope and joy. It is also the mindset of Adam before the Fall, when he had full communion with God and wasn’t separated from Him by the need for wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Being Hebraic is to think like the first Century Jewish disciples, rather than acting like twenty first Century Jews. It is the most exciting way to live out your faith. Honest!
This short article was prompted by a question emailed by a lady who had just returned from our latest Foundations conference. She was wondering why we did not acknowledge the Sabbath as she expected us to. This was a good question and my answer is tied up in our ministry aim to communicate Hebraic understandings to the wider Church. For many, our conferences are their first tentative taste of the Hebraic and our aim is to introduce Hebraic thinking in the most sensitive and relevant way possible, bearing in mind the vast chasm that has resulted from the decision seventeen centuries ago to divorce the Church from its Hebraic roots. We aim to show the joy that can result in thinking and acting Hebraically and we do so through Davidic dance, messianic worship and a teaching programme that always includes material on Israel and the Jewish people. But we also do so through demonstrating the release into freedom they would experience by breaking free of Greek structures and starting to think and act with a Hebraic mindset. We often teach and demonstrate Biblical festivals and we have already covered Passover, Shavuot, Succot and Simchat Torah at various times. But we also sing the old Wesley hymns and the odd modern chorus. The aim is to show Christians that being Hebraic ought to be the normal Christian life and not a fringe add-on. It’s as the Church ought to have been, we believe, if Constantine hadn’t kick-started the travesty known as Christendom all of those centuries ago.
We have no issues with messianic believers who keep Sabbath, kosher, Torah and the festivals and we expect them to treat us in the same way. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and our ultimate goal is to be conformed more and more into his image. To do so requires acceptance of others and balance. After all, isn’t that the goal of One New Man, for Jews and Gentiles to find a way to worship together by sharing what they have in common and what they don’t have in common.
It is for this reason that I have written my latest book, Livin’ the Life. It is the latest in my “Hebraic” journey but is the first written for the wider Church, to give them a glimpse of what they have been missing all these years. The Church needs to wake up and the last thing it needs is for us to give it a bad night’s sleep. We are in a unique position at this moment in history. We can really make a difference, so let’s do so and put a smile on the face of God!